Previous Installment: Some
Corridors and a Lot of Dust
following is the eleventh installment of the tale which began with Takeoff
, and continued with Shopping Trip Parts I. through IV
. All prior installments should be
read before this page, as that may help to render the following events
marginally less obscure.
This installment was also very kindly provided to us by Professor Johann
Schnarchhund of Miskatonic University. Johann again assures us
that this first person account, narrated by Isis Resillechat, is very
much as it was received by his daughter, Taurina. For additional
information please see the Iemy Papers
Last night I had the strangest dream .... but it wasn't about peace or
reconciliation. In fact, I'm not sure what
it was about.
But it was really vivid.
I was in Aftershock, and Auntie was driving. We were in a
forest of some sort, but it was too dark to see much of what it looked
like. The road we were on -- if it was
a road -- was
really bumpy; we were jouncing all over the place.
I heard someone say, "They're coming!"
"Who is, dear?" Auntie replied, in a calm voice. But all the same,
she was hanging onto the wheel for dear life, and the truck seemed to
"They're coming!" the voice said, again, sounding terrified, almost
There was a hiss from Skritch, who was in the right front seat. In
front of Skritch was a weapons console and a view screen.
Dream-like, up to this point I hadn't really been anywhere in
particular. But now I was in the back seat, and someone -- some cat
-- was standing on my lap, looking over the front seat. I could feel
its feet trembling.
I looked out the side window, and realized we were surrounded by
cats. Some were wearing collars, some with what looked like long
spikes on them; some seemed to be wearing clothing of some sort, kind of
like short shirts. Armor, maybe?
I glanced at Auntie, and realized she was wearing armor, too. But
this time, her suit of armor was white, not the black armor I'd seen her
I looked out the window again, and the cats around us were running.
Most of the cats with collars were running the same way we were going; the
others were running back the way we had come.
And again, this time in a drawn out wail: "They're coming!"
Skritch hissed again and her paws rippled over the buttons in front of
her. White fire erupted some distance in front of us. "The
gravity guns," I thought. "They've torn a hole in space."
A line of trees directly before us was silhouetted, stark black against
the brilliant fireball.
Then the trees vanished, apparently reduced to kindling. The white
fire vanished in its turn, and something dark -- no, not "something dark",
-- boiled toward me, tentacles of darkness
spreading across the sky.
The truck was gone; alone, I faced the darkness, as an orange mass
billowed up in the middle of the blackness, and something hit me full on
the chest. I could hardly breathe, as a burning wind seared my eyes.
I blinked, and the looming orange mass behind the wind resolved into
something small and close, something saying "Mrrowwrrr?" Dense was
standing on my chest, breathing on my eyelids.
"Dense -- what? Where's the darkness? Where's Skritch?
Where's Auntie? Help!" I said, struggling to sit up.
"Isis OK? Auntie busy, Skritch busy. Is wrong? Run and
I looked around. There was lots of darkness here, in fact, but it
was just the friendly sort of darkness that one sleeps in. I was
lying on a pile of pillows, in my cabin on the Erfout Eetjney.
"It's OK, Dense -- just a dream..." I stroked his head and rubbed
him behind his ears, and spent a few minutes just enjoying the relative
normality of the peaceful spaceship. Dense purred.
Star Date 17.93
Things just keep getting weirder.
Dad was working on some project with Nim-nim, and Mom had been called off
to some meeting by the Captain, and I was playing gin rummy with Auntie in
At least, that what we started out to do. But then, Auntie decided
gin wasn't interesting enough, and changed the game to pinochle.
Unfortunately, I don't happen to know how to play pinochle, but that
didn't bother Auntie at all -- she said I could learn it as we went along.
"Two handed pinochle is really quite a lot like rummy, dear -- really very
like gin, with a little whist mixed in, and the whole thing sort of
translated into German, with just a bit of a French accent -- you'll do
fine, dear, really!"
But then she started to explain the rules to me. It was when she got
to the part where the nine is called a "ten" (in French) because it's
worth one point that I realized why Auntie likes pinochle: It's a
game that was designed by a complete lunatic. And the weird melds,
and the bit where you have to follow suit, but only after the fifteenth
trick, make it seem more like a train wreck between rummy, euchre, and
fizzbin than like any kind of real game.
The first hand went OK -- but only because we played it face-up, with
Auntie telling me what to do each step of the way.
The second hand we played "closed", and it didn't go nearly so well.
About halfway through, when Auntie was reminding me for the fourth time
that you don't have to follow suit (except when you do) and that it's OK
to play cards directly from your meld (except when it isn't), I suddenly
yelled, "Arrgh! This game is too complicated! It's some crazy
German's idea for driving the rest of the world just a crazy as he was!"
"Poor Isis!" said Auntie, smiling sadly at me. "Pinochle can seem
complex. I suppose you just feel like having Skritch blow the cards
all to kindling, is that it?"
When she said that -- about Skritch blowing the cards to kindling -- in a
flash it brought back last night's dream, in vivid color and 3-d special
effects. Any excuse for delaying the pinochle lesson for a bit
seemed good to me, so I said, "Auntie -- Last night I had the strangest
dream -- " and I told her all about it.
As I talked, Auntie got this really funny expression on her face, like she
might have looked if she'd been the first astronaut to set foot in the
Mare Imbrium, and she'd looked around and found her old kindergarten
teacher already there, running a lemonade stand.
I got to the end of the story, where I woke up to find Dense breathing on
me, and Auntie just sat there staring at me, and didn't say anything for a
"Isis, dear, the voice -- might that have been Snizz, don't you think?"
"Snizz?" I thought about it, tried to remember the voice saying, 'They're
"You're right -- it was Snizz! But why Snizz, I wonder?" I
laughed. "Dreams are so random!"
"Isis, dear -- did Snizz really say, 'They're coming!', or was it
something different, do you think? Something in Iemy?"
I tried to remember the exact words. Auntie was right -- I'd been
thinking of it in English, but in the dream Snizz had actually spoken in
Iemy. And she hadn't said, "It/they be busy come", which would have
been the closest to the English I had associated with it; she'd said
"It/they arrive." No time context, and no indication of
plurality. One or more of something or someone had already, or was
about to, or would someday, arrive ... somewhere.
And then, I realized ... But...!!
"Auntie, how could you possibly have guessed all that? It's like you
peered into my head and looked at the the memories!"
Auntie smiled. "No, dear, I can't do that. I just happened to
have the same dream."
I stared at her. "That's impossible!"
I thought about it.
"Auntie, Aftershock hasn't got any weapons, has she?"
"Ah, no, dear -- but, well -- eh, no."
"And anyway, if it was really so dark, how could I see the cats running
past us? It doesn't make sense, does it?"
"Well, dear, if you were seeing the cats through the eyes of a cat, one
might suppose you could have, don't you think?"
What she said made sense, in a weird way, but it was a human dream, after
all, and my mind's eye is a human eye.
"Do you know what were we driving toward?"
"No. I knew it was important, and I knew what it was in the dream,
but I don't know now."
"Was it the dark thing? What was
"I have no idea, dear. I woke up as soon as Skritch set off the
white flash, so I can't help you with anything after that."
"Do you know why you were wearing armor?"
"I don't recall any armor. I don't recall what I was wearing."
"And what are 'gravity guns', anyway?"
"I'm sure I don't know -- I don't know anything about the cat's weapons
and I never heard of gravity guns
, until you told me what you
remembered of the dream. They sound like some made up thing in a bad
"What was Snizz doing in the dream, anyway?"
"Why, standing on your lap, of course!"
Of course! Now I realized it had obviously been Snizz on my lap,
saying 'They're coming!' Snizz, standing on my lap and trembling
with fear -- but not fear of Auntie, not this time, no fear of Auntie
dressed in shining armor, driving Aftershock to the rescue of ... someone,
something, somewhen. Some dream!
Finally I laughed. The only thing I've ever learned from my dreams
is that my subconscious is weird, and this one seemed no different.
Obviously I was worried about what was coming -- how could I not be? --
and puzzled by fearful little Snizz. And Auntie and her truck and
her goofy armor had helped us out more than once and would probably do so
again, and that was about all I could get from this dream.
"Auntie, did you ever find out why Snizz is so frightened of you?
"Yes, dear -- you remember, she's scared of vets."
"Yes, but why? Snidly isn't."
"Snidly had never met a vet."
"And the Captain isn't."
"The Captain's not afraid of anything."
"And Mince isn't, and none of the other cats are -- only Snizz."
Auntie sighed. "I suppose you're right, dear. Perhaps Snidly
"Snidly!" she yelled at a pile of laundry in a corner of the room.
A "Mrrowrr?" noise emerged from the laundry, and a pair of ears appeared
above a sock on the edge of the pile. I'd assumed Snidly was in a
meeting with Mom, but I guess he was playing hookey.
"Do you know why Snizz is so frightened of vets?"
"Ituafe." The ears disappeared again.
"So tell me already -- why is she so afraid of me?"
The ears reappeared, briefly. "Because Auntie vet. Ituafe."
Auntie sighed. "Snidly, why is Snizz so frightened of vets?"
"Had bad time with vets. Ituafe."
"What bad time -- what happened?"
"When did it happen?"
Auntie sighed. After a moment, she asked, "Do you know where
"Well, then, tell me where it happened!"
"Nevermore." Snidly enunciated the word slowly and carefully; it
didn't seem to be easy for him to pronounce it. It seemed like a
strange sort of answer to me; I guessed he was just being difficult, as
But Auntie clearly thought otherwise. "Nevermore, near Nottingham?"
Auntie's face turned old and gray, and she didn't say anything more for a
moment; she just stared at nothing.
"Auntie, what's 'nevermore'?"
She looked at me, like she was dragging her thoughts back from someplace
far away. "Nevermind is a laboratory on the outskirts of
Nottingham. They do a lot of experimental work in what is politely
called the life sciences there."
"So Snizz was a lab animal?"
"So it would seem."
I thought in about this. It certainly would explain some things.
"Auntie, did you say it was 'Nevermore', or 'Nevermind'?"
She sighed. "It's sort of a grim joke. A lot of what they do
is secret, for the military, and if you ask questions about it you're just
told, 'Oh just never mind -- it's all fine!'
"That's been true since forever, but then the scandal a few years back
cemented it. There had been rumors of a 'spectacular' breakthrough
in genetic engineering with 'shocking
' implications for cognitive
science. One of their people went on record saying they were going
to turn all of brain science on its head. And then somebody at the
lab blew the whistle on them, and the government auditors raided the
place, and it turned out the animals used in their 'spectacular'
experiments didn't exist. They had records, they had data, but the
lab where the 'shocking' cognitive experiments had supposedly been done
had no animals -- just empty cages. It had all just been fiction, a
big deception. They might have gotten away with it, too, if there
hadn't been an unannounced raid they hadn't had time to prepare for.
So -- lots of hype, but as to real results -- Oh, never mind!
"So the lab was shut down?"
"I wish! But no. Nevermore is huge; this was just one research
project in the organization. They lost a lot of government funding
for a year or two, but that's all, really. The researchers on the
bogus project were all let go, and I don't suppose they've had much luck
finding other jobs, but really that's the end of it -- except for the
"Auntie, how do you know all this? Did you work there?"
I should hope not!
I just read the
journals. The scandal was big news. And -- I did know someone
in veterinary shool who took a job there when we graduated."
"Was she a good friend of yours?"
"He, actually, and no, he wasn't a good friend. He was the most
coldhearted imitation of a human I've ever met."
I thought about this. How had Snizz gotten stuck in such a horrible
place? And, more puzzling, how had she gotten out -- and after she
was out, how had she ended up here
"Who rescued Snizz -- did Alf raid Nevermore?"
Auntie looked thoughtful. "Alf never raided them, as far as I ever
heard, and neither did anyone else, except the G-men. They're a
level 4 biohazard lab, and they're entirely underground, with a 30 foot
thick bomb proof concrete slab on top. Breaking into Nevermind would
be just about impossible."
"Then what? Did she escape?"
"That doesn't seem possible, either .... Snidly," Auntie called, "How did
Snizz get out of Nevermore?"
Snidly raised his head again. "Walked."
"What? They just forgot to the shut the gate or something?
What do you mean, she walked?"
"Door open, Snizz walked out. Ituafe."
I thought about this a moment, and thought about the 30 foot thick slab
with the whole lab sunk below it.
"Are there guards at Nevermore?" I asked.
"Armed guards, barbed wire, a concrete wall, and guard dogs all around the
perimeter. A mouse couldn't walk out of that place." Auntie
"Snidly, are you saying they just left all the doors wide open one day,
and Snizz just strolled out? And the guards and dogs didn't notice
"But then what about the other animals -- why didn't they walk out, too?"
Snidly snorted. "Doors on floor of lab where Snizz was were
open. Doors leading out were open. Gate was open. All animals
in lab with Snizz walked out. Nobody else got out."
"What about the guards and the dogs?"
"Guards didn't notice. Maybe dogs were asleep."
"I still can't believe the doors were just ... open
," I chimed
"Snizz hates doors," Snidly replied, in a tone that implied he was
explaining something. Didn't seem like an explanation to me, though.
"But what about the lab workers? They'd have come for Snizz, they'd
have gotten the dogs to wake up, they'd have caught her again!"
Auntie wasn't buying Snidly's explanation.
"Lab workers forgot about Snizz. Maybe they were stupid. Smart
people not work in labs."
"Snidly, this whole story makes no sense!"
At that point we were interrupted by the intercom. "Snidly to the
conference room -- now!
Snidly left in a hurry, apparently happy to break off the interrogation.
"Auntie, what do you think? How did Snizz get out?"
"I don't know, dear. Snidly's story is just silly. Maybe he
made it up to hide what really happened -- but why he'd do that, I cannot
Continued in Episode 12: First
Pickup (in which something
Page created on 17 April 2017 from text written several years earlier